The British news magazine Economist has an article about ND and, for a change, it’s not about oil. The article calls the state conservative, elderly and rural. The magazine is somewhat condescending -- “the state’s windswept plains and eroded badlands are . . . the natural site of the National Buffalo Museum.” The piece is about ND’s “gradual reddening” and how in an election year the state reflects “the mood of the country.”
Once you leave the sports page, where will you most likely find the names of NDSU athletes? Answer: crime reports. NDSU teams at times seem more like criminal gangs. In 2010, ten athletes were arrested for a conspiracy to steal $150,000 of merchandise from Best Buy where some of them worked. In the latest caper, eight current NDSU football players and one former player are charged with voter fraud. As paid petition circulators, they are alleged to have falsified thousands of names on two citizen initiatives. The consequences are enormous, a proposal for a state conservation fund and a measure to legalize medical marijuana have been disqualified from the state ballot by the Secretary of State.
NDSU recruits most heavily in the Twin Cities and has a reputation for accepting urban athletes with poor academic and behavior records. The State Board of Higher Education is being asked to waive academic admission standards for athletes being recruited for programs at UND and NDSU. Editorial writers are asking (rhetorically, I hope) why the star football players accused of voter fraud are being allowed to continue playing, considering the seriousness of the charges. The petition circulators face fines and a year in jail, but the cases won't be resolved until after football season. The editorials mention that a NDSU football player charged in August with indecent exposure at West Acres shopping center was dropped from the team.
Two recent lists rank states based on their debt. The rankings consider regular debt, but also other obligations such as pensions. ND does better than most states in the rankings, but not as well as you might expect. Barron’s ranked ND #18 (lower is better) for total state obligations as a percentage of economic output. On the same scale, most of ND’s neighbors ranked among the best (SD #1), while Illinois was about the worst. State Budget Solutions, a nonprofit organization advocating reform of state budgets, reported that ND’s total state debt is more than $6 billion. Pam Sharp, ND’s budget director, claimed both organizations overstated the state’s debt; if she is correct, the criticism would likewise be true of some other states.
ND’s oil production attracts worldwide attention. Statoil, Norway’s state owned oil company, has leased 1,000 rail cars to carry ND crude oil to coastal refineries across North America. The rail distribution system is necessary to compensate for pipelines which have not kept pace with the state’s boom.
The world is interested in ND’s oil, but is also increasingly interested in other commodities found in the state. Mitsui, a large Japanese trading company, is building a $55 million shuttle grain elevator at Bucyrus, ND (on the BNSF just northwest of Hettinger). The new facility will send 25-30 trains of hard red spring wheat a year for export at the Port of Vancouver, Wash. Mitsui will have three similar buying and shipping facilities in Montana to procure grain for export. As a Mitsui representative said, “You can’t ship more than you can buy.”
UND conducted a survey of longtime residents in northwest ND, asking how they liked the oil boom. Responses were divided -- most agreed they were financially better off, but had a poorer quality of life. Those with positive attitudes said something like this: “This oil boom is a great thing – will even be a greater thing – when issues are resolved, which will make residents happier, feel safer, and can be proud of their surroundings.” Another participant represented the pessimists: “Take it all back! We miss our old city of Stanley. The quiet, clean, happy, respectful, caring community! We hate it here now!” Safety and city services were among the biggest gripes.
Many western ND cities face challenging population increases -- some are doubling. Who pays for infrastructure for new residents? Costs to old residents could become unmanageable. The answer is -- it depends. The Jamestown Sun reports western cities facing rapid development place the costs on developers and new residents. Dickinson places all infrastructure costs on developers -- from water and sewer to paving and street lights. Dickinson may even require a developer to build a new fire station and remove snow for several years. Low growth eastern cities, eager for new residents, subsidize much of the new infrastructure.
The Minot Daily News says there are two competing voices in their city. One is “Urgent. Critical. Desperate;” the other “Stressed. Financially strapped. Struggling.” The first voice belongs to city officials who need additional resources to cope with the city’s growing physical size and population. The second belongs to residents who still haven’t recovered from the flood. The MDN says “It’s a bad combination” -- the two messages can’t easily be reconciled.
“It was Aug. 19, 2005. I was in Brazil at my wedding living my Cinderella dream day with my American Prince Charming. We invited 500 guests.” -- Chris Linnares (Cinderella) describing her marriage to Bill Marcil Jr. (Prince Charming). Linnares is the Brazilian psychotherapist columnist for the Forum’s SheSays section -- Marcil, of course, is the publisher of the Forum. Linnares spoke of “beautiful, romantic moments” in Brazil and posing for “the magical picture of which I’d always dreamed.” She uses experiences drawn from her own marriage to illustrate lessons on love and life. SheSays readers can’t wait for the next chapter.
Obituaries inform us about life in the 20th Century. Those of ND Indians show how different and difficult their lives could be. Celina Young Bear Mossett “White Juneberries” (82) was born in the Little Missouri River badlands near a town that no longer exists. “White Juneberries” is a traditional name given to her by her grandmother Iron Woman. Celina was a member of the Waterbuster Clan and a child of the Knife Clan. Like many Indian children, she was sent to boarding grade schools in Wahpeton and South Dakota. She graduated from high school at a Catholic Indian Mission School at Elbowoods, a town now under Lake Sakakawea, and attended an Indian school in Kansas. Like many Indians of her generation, she was employed most of her life by tribal government. Celina left 44 great-grandchildren.
Children of farm families often continue to live in nearby farm communities. The children of professionals, such as small town doctors and attorneys, are more likely to migrate. The late Dr. George Hilts II (87) of Cando saw his children scatter to nine different states.
College football teams like to start their seasons with a home game against a hapless opponent. UND feasted on South Dakota Mines, 66-0. NDSU did the same thing, scalping Robert Morris U. 52-0. Now, UND will head for the Rockies and West Coast to begin its real Big Sky Conference schedule.
DAKTOIDS: Brrr! ND’s three largest cities made Money Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Small Cities -- they were also among the five coldest cities on that list . . . Political donations from ND labor unions are not influential and go mostly to Democrats . . . Half of ND worker deaths in the past 18 months have been in the oil and gas industry.
Thursday, September 13, 2012